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Having originally announced that it would close its self-assessment tax helpline from 8th April, HMRC has just u-turned on its decision, confirming that its helpline will remain open until September.

Analysis of Gov data by RIFT shows that even with the helpline remaining open, taxpayers are likely to struggle to get the advice they need: -
  • The average call waiting time for HMRC’s helpline sat at 25 minutes in January of this year. Up 10% from 22 minutes 46 seconds in December 2023 and up 23% from 20 minutes 21 seconds in January 2023.
  • This is despite the fact that call volumes have fallen by 12% year on year totalling 3.7m in January 2024 versus 4.2m in January 2023.
  • What’s more, the volume of calls not handled due to lack of resource totalled 841,945 in January of this year, a 188% increase in a single month.
  • The number of webchats submitted in January of this year totalled 171,379, a 90% month on month increase and a 198% annual jump.

Data sourced from Gov UK - HMRC monthly performance report January 2024

See the full data tables here.

Bradley Post, MD of RIFT, commented:

“Self-assessments are a daunting task for many taxpayers and HMRC’s self-assessment helpline provides a vital line of communication, so we’re delighted to see that they don’t intend to close it just a few short days after the April tax deadline.

The reality is that many taxpayers prefer to speak to an actual person, particularly those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, or those in their later years who aren’t tech savvy and struggle with online chat services. The latter are likely to be even more reliant on HMRC advice this year as fiscal drag takes hold and more pensioners are pulled into higher tax bands.

It’s also clear that based on the shocking increase in call wait times, the number of calls abandoned and the huge additional strain on HMRC’s online chat service, there is likely to be a considerable number of people in desperate need of support beyond the April tax deadline day having failed to get the support they need ahead of time.

For those still struggling with a self-assessment the best advice at this late stage is to contact them as early as possible, have your finances well organised before you do, and be prepared to be on hold for quite some time.

Alternatively, seeking the help of a third party professional can help with the burden and either an accountant, or a tax specialist such as RIFT, could be able to get you the answers you need in a far more timely fashion.”